University at Buffalo students win intercollegiate cybersecurity competition

From left: David Murray, Alexandra Mazzei, Joe D’Amato, James Droste, Jesse Freeman, Woody Clark and Aaron Fiebelkorn.

Release Date: November 13, 2015

“The competition valued technical and business skills equally, and allowed me to apply what I’ve learned in my MBA classes to a real-world experience”
Aaron Fiebelkorn, MBA student
School of Management

BUFFALO, N.Y. — A team of six University at Buffalo students was victorious in the inaugural Collegiate Pentesting Competition, a cybersecurity challenge held Nov. 7-8 at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

The team was made up of UB School of Management students Aaron Fiebelkorn of Amherst and Alexandra Mazzei of Niagara Falls, as well as UB Computer Science and Engineering Department students Woody Clark of Batavia, Joe D’Amato of Buffalo, James Droste of Nanuet and Jesse Freeman of Buffalo.

David Murray, clinical associate professor of management science and systems, served as the team’s faculty coach.

Three weeks before the competition, the students received a request for proposal from a fictitious company, asking them to review the company’s networks and server architecture and outline the penetration tests they would perform to expose vulnerabilities and leaks in its information technology system. The team submitted a written proposal before the event and presented their recommendations at the competition to a judging panel of industry professionals who have worked in cybersecurity for such companies as Facebook, Uber and Crowe Horwath.

“The competition valued technical and business skills equally, and allowed me to apply what I’ve learned in my MBA classes to a real-world experience,” says Fiebelkorn, an MBA student who served as co-captain with D’Amato. “We all learned something new, such as how to be a security consultant and how specific services work. I am extremely proud of our team.”

Other participants in the regional competition were Alfred State, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Penn State, RIT, Syracuse University, Tompkins Cortland Community College, the United States Naval Academy and the University of New Hampshire.

In addition, the UB team earned the distinction of most professional team, for which each team member received a Raspberry Pi, a credit-card-sized computer that plugs into a monitor or TV and uses a standard keyboard and mouse.

“Our goal was to uncover vulnerabilities and present them in a way that made the ‘company’ understand the impact of the situation and how to fix it,” says Mazzei, who’s working toward a master’s degree in management information systems. “Our technical skills were important, but they only got us so far—showing our customers that we were trustworthy and had their best interests at heart was what won us the competition.”

Several of the UB students are participants in the CyberCorps Scholarship for Service program, supported by the National Science Foundation.

The UB School of Management is recognized for its emphasis on real-world learning, community and economic impact, and the global perspective of its faculty, students and alumni. The school also has been ranked by Bloomberg Businessweek, the Financial Times, Forbes and U.S. News & World Report for the quality of its programs and the return on investment it provides its graduates. For more information about the UB School of Management, visit mgt.buffalo.edu.

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Matthew Biddle
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School of Management
716-645-5455
mrbiddle@buffalo.edu